Edit Content

About TED

Ideas are the catalysts for innovation, change, and exponential growth.

TEDxReno is the purveyor of ideas.

Event Info

This is an Exclusive VIP event. To partner with us on this invitation-only event, click here.

By Reagan Hilton

Photo Credit: Jeramie Lu

Gaia Bernstein, Co-Director of the Institute for Privacy Protection and Professor at Seton Hall University School of Law, envisions a future where we can reclaim control over our technology use and prioritize real human connections.

Bernstein advocates for shifting the responsibility of technology overuse away from individuals and towards the tech industry. She created and spearheaded a nationally acclaimed school outreach program for children and parents on privacy and technology overuse, which was featured in major media outlets like The Washington Post, CBS Morning News, and Common-Sense Media. She is also the author of Unwired: Gaining Control Over Addictive Technologies, a book praised for its actionable agenda against the tech giants.

In her powerful TEDx Reno talk, Bernstein draws from her dual perspectives as a mother and a law professor to address the urgent issue of technology addiction, particularly among children. She shares her personal experiences and observations of how screens have drastically altered childhood and family dynamics. Bernstein highlights startling statistics: teens now spend an average of 8.5 hours on screens daily, leading to decreased in-person interactions and deteriorating mental health. Since 2010, depression rates among teens have more than doubled, a trend Bernstein attributes to the pervasive influence of social media and smartphones.

A Generation at Risk

Bernstein vividly recounts how children’s social interactions have transformed. Where once kids would spend afternoons socializing in person, today they are more likely to be isolated in their rooms with their screens. She recalls attending school performances where parents, instead of watching their children, were preoccupied with capturing every moment on their phones. Despite widespread awareness of the negative impacts of excessive screen time, meaningful change remains elusive. Bernstein explains that the tools provided by tech companies, like time notifications and parental controls, are designed to deflect responsibility rather than solve the problem.

One poignant story illustrates the dangers of this dependency: a mother recounts a near-fatal car accident caused by her son’s refusal to relinquish his iPad. This incident underscores Bernstein’s argument that the blame lies not with the children or their parents, but with the tech companies that engineer these addictive products. Bernstein likens the tech industry to the tobacco industry, manipulating users, particularly children, to maximize profit. She stresses that the real culprit is the industry itself, which profits enormously from keeping users, especially minors, constantly engaged.

Turning Anger into Action

Bernstein advocates for redirecting our frustration and guilt towards the tech industry. She urges parents and society at large to demand accountability and push for regulatory changes. Drawing parallels to historical shifts like smokeless bars and restaurants, she asserts that significant change is possible with concerted effort and pressure. By focusing on protecting children—society’s most vulnerable—we can instigate broader transformations that benefit everyone.

Her call to action is clear: support the legal movements challenging the tech industry’s exploitative business models. Bernstein believes that once these companies are forced to prioritize children’s well-being, the ripple effect will lead to a healthier, more balanced use of technology for all. This shift could mitigate the rising rates of anxiety, depression, and social isolation linked to tech addiction.

Gaia Bernstein’s TEDx talk is a compelling blend of personal narrative, alarming data, and a passionate plea for systemic change. She envisions a world where children can experience a screen-free childhood and families can reclaim their time from the grips of addictive technologies.

For those interested in learning more and joining the movement for change, you can watch her full talk here: 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *